Colombia: Indigenous Protests and Murders Under Media Blackout

From Colombia, the indigenous groups in the Cauca department have made an international SOS to call attention on their plight. On their website, they explain how they have been protesting the human rights abuses they have been victim of, represented by the murder of one of their community leaders by hit men and the death threats on other regional and community leaders and spokespeople. They have requested a public audience with the Government Officials, and have been protesting since October 12, demanding the protection of their human rights and making the government live up to the promises of the signed treaties of the past. However, it is said that armed government forces,  have shot live ammunition at the protesters, leaving 2 dead and more than 60 indigenous members injured. On this blog post on the indigenous community site they show pictures of the protest and the injuries some have sustained as well as the list of those injured up to October 14th. On October 15th, the armed forces opened fire once again on the protesters, killing one and leaving 39 injured. They have also blocked the roads and ambulances can't get in to help those who are hurt and needing assistance. (Links in Spanish unless otherwise noted)

They write:

la fuerza publica entró disparando con armas de largo alcance y ya hay 3 heridos mas de gravedad. la fuerza militar entro ya al territorio de dialogo y negociación.

Se solicita de manera urgente que organismos internacionales frenen esta violencia. tambien a los pueblos inigenas que refuercen el personal que esta siendo atacado.

The armed forces came in shooting with long range weapons and there are already 3 other persons seriously injured. The military forces have barged into the territory of dialogue and negotiation.

We urgently request international organizations to stop this violence. Also for the indigenous communities to get more people to back those who have been attacked.

The indigenous community has been sending emails and posting on their website[es] updates on the situation.

The following video was posted last week by user nasacin, including cellphone and video camera images from the manifestations, clips showing shot indigenous community members, a soldier speaking about the differences between the Mob Control ESMAD and the armed forces, stating that the armed forces are to keep the peace, and the ESMAD is the one in charge of defusing violent situations. However, when asked who it is that is shooting with rifles, the soldier doesn't answer.

Blogger Alejandro Peláez last week wrote of how foreign media is reporting on the indigenous protests, but local media hadn't published anything at all:

Las noticias son hechos, y para escribir sobre hechos toca salir del escritorio, entrevistar personas, buscar en archivos, viajar al monte . Las masacres, por ejemplo, son hechos. Pero en este país los medios cubren este tipo de hechos con diez años de diferencia y ahí ya no son noticia, son historia. En este momento, como lo cuenta AdamIsacson (sí, un gringo sentando en Washington D.C.), hay serios disturbios en el Cauca y El Tiempo ni lo anota. Tal vez presenten una crónica completísima dentro de diez años. Chévere.

News is facts, and to write about facts you have to get out from behind your desk, interview people, search the archives, head out into the mountains. Massacres, for example, are facts. But in this country the media covers this type of events with a 10 year difference when they are no longer a news story, but history. In this moment, as Adam Isacson (yes, a gringo sitting in Washington D.C.) reports, there are serious disturbances in the Cauca, and El Tiempo doesn't even have a note on it.  Maybe they'll present a full chronicle of it in ten years. Great.

In Gacetilla Colombiana, a Digg style application for Colombian news, posters have been linking foreign news as an alternative for those who are under the “media blackout” on this event, in particular to a major foreign news chain's video [en] where a citizen media recording shows what could be an armed but hooded person dressed in green with a rifle going moving through the mob squad and shooting at the indigenous protesters as the members of the mob squad move to let him pass. In the blog “Lets Change the World”, Decio Machado posts the email chain sent out by the Indigenous groups, the means through which most Colombians have found out about the crisis.  The blog also posts updates on the situation, how indigenous groups are all marching towards a main city called Cali and blocking the Panamerican Highway and other roads with 10 000 people, including cane pickers, farmers women and children.

In the national blogging  award winner Tienen Huevo blog,  they write outraged at the fact that at the same time there is an ethnocide going on in the streets of Colombia, trying to reach Cali, while a fashion and makeup expo is taking place, with people more concentrated on clothing and fashion shows than the indigenous situation.

The government has responded to the accusations of opening fire on the indigenous protesters by saying that they have orders not to shoot, so it must've been an inside job, someone infiltrated from the indigenous communities among the police in order to cause panic and bad feeling. Bacteria Opina blog has a caricature of the situation where two indigenous protesters comment that in spite of marching with “indigenous malice”, a phrase used to determine  the ability to make do with whatever is doled out their way, the government is accusing them of being an “indigenous milicia”. The government has issued statements saying that these indigenous protests are infiltrated by guerrillas and are terrorist activities, statements the indigenous communities refute absolutely on their blog.

These other videos online on YouTube show the indigenous community's past struggles, this is the first of the multipart series:

Federico Ruiz posts a play-by-play ping-pong match style summary of events up until Saturday:

los indígenas decretan un paro, el gobierno lo declara ilegal, los indígenas se toman la panamericana, el gobierno manda a una fuerza especial antimotines de la policía para que desbloqueen las carreteras, más indígenas se suman a las movilizaciones, el procurador de la nación dice que va a los diálogos, el presidente dice que está muy ocupado para ir a resolver el problema, los de la policía intentan desbloquear la carretera a las malas, los indígenas dicen que no se van porque les tienen que arreglar sus problemas y cumplirles los compromisos que les habían hecho hace como 15 años y que están en ese link que es una “carta abierta al presidente”, entre tanto en las protestas matan a un indígena y hieren como a 10 según las informaciones de El Tiempo, pero que en realidad no son 10 sino 90 según lo dicen los indígenas, y los de la policía dicen que en la manifestación o en el paro hay infiltrados de la guerrilla, los indígenas dicen que no, y justo luego los indígenas descubren que si hay un infiltrado pero que justamente es policía y que tenía unos panfletos de las farc y unas armas para encochinar a los indígenas, y por si fuera poco, justo llega el defensor regional del pueblo, o sea un representante del gobierno, y dice que “la Fuerza Pública se ha excedido en el uso de las armas de fuego”.

The indigenous groups decree a strike, the government declares it is illegal, the indians take the panamerican, the government sends a a special force of riot police to unblock the highways, more indians join the marches, the nation's procurer states they are going to dialogue about this, the president says he is too busy to go solve the problem, the police tries to unblock the road the “bad” way, the indians say they are not leaving because the government has to keep their promise to solve their issues as stated in a 15 year old treaty, that there is an open letter to the president, meanwhile in the protest an aboriginal is killed and 10 are injured according to El Tiempo [ed note. national newspaper], but really they aren't 10 but 90 according to the indigenous organizations, the police state that in the march and strike there are people infiltrated from the guerrilla, the indigenous people say there aren't, and just then the indians discober that there IS someone infiltrated, but that he is from the police force and had some FARC (Colombian Armed Forces) pamphlets and weapons to incriminate the natives, and if it weren't enough, the regional defender for the people, a government representative, comes and says that the “Armed Forces have exceeded themselves in the use of fire weapons”.

EDITED to add:

The organization who sent in the recording of the hooded shooter among the mob squad team have uploaded it online with other images of the protests. The images of the shooter amongst the mob squad, shooting at protesters starts at 1:44. They also add images of President Uribe calling military leaders to ask about the murders of the protesters, to which the military replied it was a shrapnel wounds from a pipe bomb and wasn't a bullet injury.The indigenous people are also shown with segments of a handmade grenade full of metal pieces and ball bearings they claim the armed forces are using against them.


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